ABU DHABI // Hundreds of parents queued for more than two hours early yesterday to secure their children a coveted place at a new school. It was the first day of admissions for the Private International English School in Musaffah, which opens on September 19 for pupils from kindergarten to grade four. There is a shortage of schools offering an Indian curriculum, and the new school uses the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (BVB), one of India's largest. By the end of the day up to 150 children were enrolled, with the daily process due to continue until all 1,000 spaces are filled.
"The Bhavan educational system is well known in India and among all of our family and friends back home," said Mukesh Patel, who was applying for a grade two spot for his seven-year-old son, Mirmit. "Having this new school is a relief for countless Indian families in Abu Dhabi, since we need Indian curriculum schools. But the bonus is that this is a really good and well known school that came to us here."
Jayan Nair, who recently moved to Musaffah from Dubai and has a four-year-old daughter, Anjana, starting kindergarten, agreed. "I took time off work and came early this morning to make sure she gets a spot," he said. "I would love for my daughter to grow up in a good school like this." Despite the official admission hours being from 9am to 8pm, parents began queueing at 7.30am. However, the school had expected demand to be high and was well prepared, said the principal, Rajalaxmy Pillay.
"We were here early because we knew parents were excited and would come early," she said. "Plus we want to help these parents; some of them are fasting, some of them had to take permission to leave work and come to enrol their children. "So for the next 10 days we will work extra hours and late into the night to complete the registration process for as many children as possible." That process included written entrance examinations, with questions in mathematics, English and general knowledge, for children enrolling in grades one to four. Kindergarten-aged children were tested only on their oral skills.
Although the examination should take 30 minutes to complete, some children took up to an hour. "Most of the children are of an average level," said Mrs Pillay, "but none were turned away. Those that need extra help will get it and all will be placed in their right grade." Mrs Pillay and Rajashree Menon, the English department head, were overseeing the entrance examinations and correcting children's papers on the spot. Some of the students, said Mrs Menon, were nervous on their first try. If their entrance exam results were too low, the children were given a quick pep talk and asked to try again. "We want their brains to work, and we want a student in grade 4 level to be that level, and not grade 3 level," she said. One boy who received a 12 out of 25 on his entrance exam earned a note on the fourth-grade paper: "Special attention in maths needed." His brother, who earned a seven out of 25 on his Grade 3 entrance exam, was told he would get a second chance. Abdul Jabar, who was trying to get his son Hashim, six, into grade 1, said he was surprised by the difficulty of the questions. "My son wasn't able to answer some of the questions, but they told us it's not a problem," he said. "He will get some extra attention from teachers and his weak areas will be strengthened." After their entrance exams were marked and graded, the children and their parents joined a long queue in front of the office of NK Ramachandran, the school's managing director and the regional head of the BVB network. "I prefer to see every parent myself, so I can get to know them and their children," said Mr Ramachandran. "We don't worry too much about the low marks, maybe the child was scared or has low confidence. We will take care of them." firstname.lastname@example.org